Celebration tops out engineering building

Come celebrate 30 years!
Topping off the new building, a golden beam full of signatures raises to complete this stage of construction. Photo by Dan Duque.
Topping off the new building, a golden beam full of signatures raises to complete this stage of construction. Photo by Dan Duque.

Crowds gathered in the Bookstore parking lot Dec. 6 to watch a lone piece of metal hoisted to the top of the continually growing Engineering and Industry Building. This piece of metal bore the signatures of more than 50 individuals commemorating the final piece of steel to be outfitted onto the frame of the new building in what is called a “topping-out” ceremony. Among the signees were Chancellor Tom Case, previous chancellor Fran Ulmer, Society of Women Engineers chapter of UAA president Andrea Hulman, as well as dozens of students, staff and faculty. Their inscriptions and messages will forever be preserved on the bright yellow piece of steel, soon to be concealed within the building.

Sophomore Matthew Jacobs attended the event to show his school spirit despite the gloomy weather.

“It is great to see so many students who aren’t engineering majors show up to the event,” he said, “because even though the building doesn’t directly impact us it is still impacting us because it is a part of our school now.”

The four-story $78.25 million building is to be new home of the Engineering Department after its completion in the fall 2015 semester.

This marks the third topping-out ceremony in the past three years; the Alaskan Airlines Center was dedicated on May 10, 2013, and the Health Sciences Building on May 26, 2010. University officials say UAA is working to enlarge its university and become a home to more students majoring in jobs that are in high demand, such as engineering and nursing.

However, despite these seemingly promising results, there are many who are concerned that UAA will use up too much of its land space, making it impossible for the commuter campus to accommodate the students.

“I drive to school every day and to lose this much parking space to this building is frustrating,” said junior Amanda Watts. “If they keep building over the spaces we need, then they will drive students away from the campus for good.”

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The construction area eliminated over 100 parking spots, causing concerns from students and community members alike. Once done, the building will be 81,500 square feet. Current blueprints indicate that areas in front of the building that once were parking will be turned into a landscaped area with sidewalks. It is anticipated that more than half of the previous spots will be gone, but not all of them.

A future plan is to build a parking garage next to the new building to accommodate parking for the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, Bookstore, Student Union and the Engineering and Industry building. However, no funding has been appropriated to make this project a reality yet.

While these advancements can be conceived as steps in the right direction for expanding UAA’s academics and reputation, students are concerned as to what the future will hold for UAA’s status as a commuter campus.

State representative Chris Tuck and the crowd react as the final beam lowers into place. Photo by Dan Duque.
State representative Chris Tuck and the crowd react as the final beam lowers into place. Photo by Dan Duque.